Jul 20, 2017

Hampton Creek's empty board of directors

AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

Hampton Creek, the meatless food startup that has raised more than $220 million in VC funding, made news earlier this week by basically losing its entire board (save for founder and CEO Josh Tetrick). Six notes:

1. Top-line: This is what happens when a CEO has super-voting rights and no longer really listens to his board. In fact, it's unclear why companies with such structure even have boards of directors, rather than boards of advisors. The late Bill Campbell said that the only real job of a board is to hire and fire a CEO, so boards like Hampton Creek don't really have a core function. Nonetheless, Tetrick does plan to reconstitute it with new people.

2. It wasn't always this way: Tetrick didn't get super-voting rights until its most recent financing round, which valued the company at around $800 million post-money.

3. Notable: My initial reaction was that this was the board using its only actual means of protest, which is to quit (something that some argued earlier this year was what Uber's board should have done). But if this is a protest, it's pretty deeply undercut by a statement that the ex-directors "continue to fully support Hampton Creek and its CEO Josh in their exciting and important mission to change the food industry for the better of all people. We will advise Josh and the team on strategies across all areas of its business moving forward."

4. Disclaimer: Hampton Creek is best known for its egg-less mayo. I hate mayo (including that fancier-sounding aioli — you're not fooling anyone). So I'm not as reflexively supportive of the company's mission.

5. Timing: The departures didn't all come at once. Horizons Ventures rep Bart Swanson left months ago. Another board member was asked by Tetrick to resign in June after a reported corporate coupthat resulted in the firings of three executives.

6. Investor rep: Among the three others was Khosla Ventures partner Samir Kaul, who was the board's only remaining investor rep. Khosla Ventures still has its seat, although no word on if it plans to name a new representative.

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